For those of you that may not know my husband passed away on October 6. It still seems strange writing these words. Every time the phone rings I expect it to be him explaining once again why he is running late. I listen for the door to open and hear him say hello. It is the little things like seeing the apples he had selected at the store in the crisper that bring me to my knees in grief. But the one constant that has helped me is the kindnesses I have been shown from big to little that have helped me get through these dark times. I thought I would check out kindness and what it does for us all not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. I found quite a bit of information and the one fact I uncovered that I found very interesting is that it does not have to be something huge to get the benefits. It can be something as simple as holding a door open for someone or smiling at a stranger on the street.
As I explored the health benefits of kindness I discovered that not only did it have a positive effect on the receiver of the act but also on the doer and observer. Astounding that one thoughtful deed could impact a minimum of 3 people and a maximum of many more. Many scientific studies have shown that an act of kindness has a positive effect on the immune system and increases serotonin production in the body. Serotonin naturally occurs in the body and helps regulate moods, calms the nerves and assists with anxiety. It is regarded as a “feel good” boost for our body and assists in helping with depression. Research also demonstrates that regular acts of kindness can help with insomnia, chronic pain, and alleviating stress.
In Psychology Today an article entitled “What We Get When We Give” (by Christine Carter, Ph.D., 2/18/10) states: “People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying — and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status, and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.” Those are pretty impressive results.
Speaking of my own experience, the kindnesses I have been shown have helped me immensely. Certainly from family and friends but also the random acts of people who did not know me but knew my husband and have reached out. Random acts like the young store clerk I shared my story with as I fumbled in my purse for my money obviously befuddled who gave me a big hug or the man next to me who saw me crying in the car and gave me a big smile. Yes it is the little things that have helped so much. So when you are faced with a dilemma of what to do when an act of kindness may be called for keep in mind it is not necessary for some grand gesture that it is those little random acts of kindness that mean so much.